In Hong Kong, no looking back at Britain

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HONG KONG -- The Hong Kong government on Thursday closed the pier through which British governors had arrived and departed for decades, as a British diplomat said a few blocks away that although his country remained committed to its former colony, relations with Hong Kong had become "just another foreign relationship."

No senior Hong Kong officials showed up for the speech by Stephen Bradley, the British consul general. Some went instead to the airport to greet the arrival of two pandas, donated by the Chinese government to live at a Hong Kong amusement park. Donald Tsang, Hong Kong's chief executive, was off visiting a trade show in central China.

Hong Kong is still home to 265,000 holders of British passports.

Annual trade between Hong Kong and Britain has quadrupled in the past two decades, to $13.5 billion. British companies still control the dominant airline here, Cathay Pacific, and much of the pricey downtown real estate that is occupied by shops offering international brands like Tiffany and Chanel.

But while Prince Charles came for the return of Hong Kong in 1997, the Chinese government has pointedly not invited leaders from Britain or any other country to attend the 10th anniversary celebrations.

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